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Donald Ort

| | University of Illinois

Don Ort is the Robert Emerson Professor of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois. His research seeks to understand and improve plant growth and photosynthetic performance in changing environmental conditions such as rising carbon dioxide levels, temperature stress, and drought. He earned his bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry from Wake Forest University and went on to earn his doctorate in plant biochemistry from Michigan State University.

Don has published more than 250 papers in peer-reviewed journals, including Science, and has been named a “Highly Cited Researchers each year since 2015 by the Web of Science group, a Clarivate Analytics company. He has served as president of the International Society of Photosynthesis Research (ISPR) and the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), who presented him with the Charles F. Kettering Award in 2006 and the Charles Reid Barnes Life Membership Award in 2020. In addition, he has served as editor-in-chief of Plant Physiology and associate editor of the Annual Reviews of Plant Biology. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences(NAS) and a fellow of both ASPB and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

As the former director of SoyFACE, Don oversaw research in a unique open-air laboratory that investigates how increasing carbon dioxide and tropospheric ozone—and their interactions with temperature and precipitation—could influence crop systems in the Midwest. Today, he leads the Genomic Ecology of Global Change research theme at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) that aims to create more robust agricultural system despite climatic changes. He also serves as the director of research and development for the Center for Advanced Bioenergy & Bioproducts Innovation (CABBI), a multi-million-dollar research center that stimulates scientific breakthroughs for a new generation of sustainable, cost-effective biofuels and bioproducts. As the deputy director of Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE), Don collaborates with researchers across the world to develop staple food crops that turn the sun’s energy into food more efficiently.

In his spare time, Don hangs out with Tom and grows way too many apple varieties—his favorites include the Hawkeye and Gold Rush.

The Ort Lab is supported by many public and private partnerships, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, the UK Government's Department for International Development, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

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